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Italian Citizenship for descentants of Italians

The general framework governing Italian citizenship is Law 91 of 5 February 1992 as implemented by DPR 572 of 12/10/93 and DPR 362 of 4/18/94 Generally speaking, the law allows persons to hold another citizenship in addition to the Italian one.
Passaporto italiano
The statutes on citizenship concern:
  • those who were born Italian citizens but lost their citizenship and now wish to reacquire it;
  • descendants of Italian citizens who are eligible for and wish to have their Italian citizenship recognized;
  • foreigners who intend to acquire Italian nationality.
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The Law of Italian citizenship

The different cases are governed by different articles of the law.
  • The reacquisition of Italian citizenship is governed by articles 13 and 17. In general terms (article 13), reacquisition is subordinate to the existence of a bond with Italy, which may be manifest in a relationship of employment (civil or military) with the State or with the establishment of domicile in Italy. Facilitated conditions (article 17) are foreseen for Italian women who, in application of an earlier law, had lost their citizenship by marriage to a foreigner. Article 17, carried a provisional term (until 12/31/97) that allowed waiver of the domicile requirement for reacquisition. After it has been determined that all the requirements have been fulfilled, the reacquisition takes place by means of a declaration made by the applicant to the Authority with jurisdiction over their place of residence/domicile (the Consulate abroad or the Comune in Italy).
  • Determination and recognition of Italian citizenship is subject to the demonstration by the applicant that his or her direct ascendants uninterruptedly maintained their Italian citizenship. The power to make this determination is the Authority with jurisdiction over the place of residence of the applicant: outside Italy it is the Consular Authority for that jurisdiction; in Italy, it is the Ufficiale di Stato Civile of the Comune.
  • The acquisition of Italian citizenship is governed, depending on the case, by articles 4, 5 and 9. Generally speaking, facilitated conditions are provided for the following:
    a. spouses of Italian citizens (article 5)
    b. descendants of former citizens and foreigner nationals born in Italy (articles 4 and 9)

How to acquire the Italian citizenship

By law the Italian citizenship will be granted for:
  • Birth;
  • Marriage;
  • Reinstatement of citizenship.

1 - Birth
The Italian citizenship is granted by birth through the paternal line (with no limit on the number of generations) or through the maternal line (for individuals born after January 1, 1948).

2 - Marriage

  • A foreign woman who married an Italian citizen prior to April 27, 1983, has automatically acquired Italian citizenship;
  • The foreign husband or wife of an Italian citizen can apply for citizenship through the Prefect if he or she has established residence in Italy for six months. Foreign nationals residing abroad may apply for Italian citizenship by virtue of marriage to an Italian citizen so long as they have been married for at least three years.

3 - Reinstatement of Italian citizenship;

  • Italian citizens who were naturalized prior to August 15, 1992, implicitly renouncing to their Italian citizenship, can reinstate it by returning to Italy and residing there for at least one year.
  • Italian citizens who were naturalized after August 15, 1992, retain their original Italian citizenship unless they expressly renounced it. They are required to personally inform the Italian Consulate in their area within 90 days of becoming foreign citizens or when they reach their 18th birthday.
  • Citizens who are direct descendants of an Italian citizen can apply for citizenship after a period of residence in Italy of at least three years to the Italian municipalities (Comuni) where residence has been established.

The "jure sanguinis"

Article 1 of Law n.91/1992, reaffirms the principle of "jure sanguinis" (continuity of blood), by which any children born of an Italian father/mother instantly inherit the Italian citizenship. However, the inheritance of the Italian citizenship through the maternal line is only possible for those born after January 1, 1948. The request for the acknowledgment of the Italian citizenship must be addressed to the Embassy in the territorial jurisdiction of the claimant submitting the following information:
  • Place and date of birth of the Italian ancestor, date of his/her emigration from Italy, and Country of destination, whether he/she obtained another citizenship
  • Place and date of birth of the lineal descendants (It is important to verify whether the Italian ancestor was an Italian citizen at the time of his/her child's birth.)
  • The Italian Consular Office, upon receipt of the information submitted, will send a written reply to the applicant requesting additional documentation required by law to finalize the acknowledgment of the Italian citizenship.

The Right to request Italian citizenship

Obtaining italian citizenship (or dual citizenship) is possible in any of the following conditions
  • the claimant was born in Italy and is over 21 years old
  • One of the claimant's parents is Italian
  • the claimant has been living legally in Italy for at least 10 years
  • the claimant is married to an Italian citizen
  • the claimant has worked for at least three years in an overseas office of the Italian government
  • the claimant has been living in Italy for at least two years and has given a service to the nation, such as serving in the Italian army

The Italian citizenship of ancestors

  • It is important first of all to establish whether the country whose citizenship the claimant presently allows dual citizenship.
  • Secondly, under Italian law, the taking of an Oath of Citizenship of another country constitutes a voluntary surrender of the Italian citizenship.
  • Thirdly, under Italian law, since citizenship is obtained "iure sanguinis" no matter where the child is born, if a child was born in another country to parents who were still Italian citizens, that child automatically acquired Italian citizenship by birth.

Italian citizenship for USA citizens of Italian descent

If you were born in the United States, you may be eligible for Italian citizenship if any of the following situations pertains to you:

A. Your father was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth* and you have never renounced your Italian citizenship. The following documentation is required:
1. your father's birth certificate
2. your parents' marriage certificate
3. your father's current Italian passport and alien registration card
4. your father's naturalization certificate or a letter from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service evidencing that he was naturalized AFTER your birth.

*If your father was naturalized before your birth, you are not entitled to Italian citizenship.

B. You were born after January 1, 1948, you have never renounced your Italian citizenship, and your mother was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth.

* The following documentation is required:

1. your mother's birth certificate;
2. your parent's marriage certificate;
3. your mother's current Italian passport and alien registration card;
4. your mother's naturalization certificate or a letter from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service evidencing that she was naturalized AFTER your birth.

If your mother was naturalized before your birth, you are not entitled to Italian citizenship

C. Your father was born in the U.S. and your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your father's birth* and neither you nor your father ever renounced Italian citizenship.
The following documentation is required:
1. birth certificates of your paternal grandfather and your father;
2. marriage certificates of your grandparents and your parents;
3. your paternal grandfather's naturalization certificate or a letter from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service evidencing that he was naturalized AFTER your father's birth.

If your paternal grandfather was naturalized before your father's birth, you and your father are not entitled to Italian citizenship.

D. Your were born after January 1, 1948, your mother was born in the U.S. and your maternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your mother's birth and neither you nor your mother ever renounced Italian citizenship. 
The following documentation is required:
1. birth certificates of your maternal grandfather and your mother;
2. marriage certificates of your grandparents and of your parents
3. your maternal grandfather's naturalization certificate or a letter from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service evidencing that he was naturalized AFTER your mother's birth.

Also consider that:
  • If your maternal grandfather was naturalized before your mother's birth, you and your mother are not entitled to Italian citizenship
  • U.S.-issued vital records (birth, marriage, and death certificates) that are to be recorded in Italy must be in long form and bear the registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office.
  • Each document must also have affixed an Apostille in compliance with the 5 October 1961 Hague Convention.

Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship is allowed for Italian citizens who acquire(d) or reacquire(d) another citizenship after August 15, 1992.
However, due notification of any (re) acquisition must be given to their local civil records office no later than three months after its occurrence. Italian citizens who reside abroad are required to notify the Consular Office with jurisdiction over their place of residence with the following documents:
1. Italian passport;
2. Foreign naturalization certificate;
3. Driver's licence (or other photo identification document) issued in the place of residence.

Starting on January 23, 2001 Italian citizens who acquire a foreign citizenship can also, according to art. 24 of Law n.91 of 5/2/1992, send a self-executed declaration to the Embassy by regular mail. The self-executed declaration must be sent with a copy of a valid form of identification (preferably a valid passport) and a copy of the naturalization certificate.

Starting on March 31, 2001 Italian citizens who acquire a foreign citizenship no longer will need to notify Italian authorities. All those who acquired a foreign citizenship before March 31, 2001 still have to comply with previous requirements.

Documents to produce

The documents needed will be at least a certificate of birth and a certificate of marriage for each foreign-born ancestor through whom the claim is made, as well as the Italian-born ancestor. These documents must indicate parentage.

In most countries, proof of the date of naturalization for any ancestor who renounced his/her Italian nationality is also necessary. All documents must be properly sealed, and an apostille certification (a form of notarization recognized internationally) is necessary for documents released by a nation outside the European Community.

Non-Italian documents must be translated officially by an Italian consular officer or authorized agent. Within the European Community, however, it is usually possible to obtain multi-lingual certificates. A simple family tree clearly indicating the line of descent and acts for which supporting documents are provided should accompany these items.

More information can be obtained from the Italian consulate having jurisdiction in your locality, or to an Italian attorney qualified to represent a client in these matters. Under normal conditions, legal consultation will not be necessary, although the services of a professional genealogist may be required for document searches in Italy.